A raccoon, and perhaps a family of raccoons, appears to live in the storm sewers in our neighborhood.
Once, on a morning walk, I saw a hunched shape scrabbling across the street and toward the sewer grate in the pre-dawn darkness. The raccoon plunged into the sewer. When we passed by a few moments later, it was there, wearing its mask, perched just beneath the grate, its beady black eyes glittering with the reflected light from a nearby street lamp. The dogs lunged toward it, and it vanished.
The encounter gave me the creeps. I have no interest in dealing with potentially rabid creatures, and I don’t like the idea of raccoons using the storm sewer as a kind of vagabond superhighway underneath our neighborhood. Now, whenever I pass the sewer, I can’t help but look to see whether those black eyes are there, staring back. Usually they aren’t, and I start to think that perhaps the raccoon is gone. But every once in a while the eyes are there again, following our movements as we quicken the pace to get past the grate, and I shudder anew.
I don’t remember my dreams when I awaken, but I’d be willing to bet that those beady black eyes through the sewer grate have appeared in a nightmare or two.
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The BBC reports that scientists now believe they can develop a system to record people’s dreams. Their plan is to electronically visualize brain activity and identify dream themes by mapping activity in individual brain neurons that purportedly are associated with particular individuals, objects, or concepts. The idea seems far-fetched, and the scientists concede they are a long away from actually being able to capture dreams. I really wish they wouldn’t try. We’re all better off, I think, if our dreams splinter into hazy fragments and vanish from our consciousness the moment we awake.
I almost never remember my dreams; I only recall those that are so deeply disturbing that they startle me into wakefulness and survive the forgetting process that accompanies the first instant of awareness. And when you remember your “bad dreams,” you realize that it is not only the topics of the dreams that are troubling, such as being chased by a menacing dark figure or realizing that you are late for a final exam in a class that you have blown off since the semester began months ago. Usually the physical context is equally unsettling, like suddenly finding yourself buck naked and running down a street in some creepy part of town or sitting with a long-dead relative in a cold, dark house where the walls ooze blood and there is a screaming face visible through every dusty window. If every dream is so weird, wouldn’t remembering them all just be psychologically traumatic? And, in a perverse way, wouldn’t it be an embarrassing let down if the vast majority of your dreams instead turned out to be boring downloads of what you did during the day? Who would want to relive a humdrum workday? Maybe we instantly forget our dreams because they are so dull.
I don’t know whether dreams are attempts to communicate with us from the Great Beyond, or extrasensory perceptions of future events, or just the products of random electrical discharges in an exhausted brain that needs to wind down after a tough day — and I don’t need to know. Just let me get some shut-eye, and leave my dream life alone.
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